Margaret Pittelkow: When a warning light illuminates on a car's dashboard, many drivers start to panic. Not all warning lights are a sign of imminent disaster, but no warning indicator should ever be ignored. Here are the most common warning lights and what they mean for your vehicle's health.
The oil pressure light is usually an oilcan symbol or the word OIL. It comes on when there is a drop in engine oil pressure. This light indicates the greatest potential for serious mechanical damage.
If the oil pressure warning light comes on and stays on, pull off the road immediately. Shut off the engine and call for assistance.
The Engine Temperature Light is usually a thermometer symbol or the word TEMP. It comes on when the engine temperature exceeds the safe maximum. Unless the temperature is quickly brought under control, major damage may occur.
If there are any signs of a cooling system leak, find a safe place to pull off the road, shut off the engine and call for assistance.
The Charging System Light is usually a battery symbol or the word ALT or GEN. It comes on when the electrical system is no longer being supplied power by the alternator.
If this light comes on, shut down all unnecessary electrical loads such as the radio, heater or air-conditioning, then head to the repair facility immediately for further inspection.
Ignoring a warning light in your car can result in significant damage to your car's engine if unattended. Responding to warning lights can help to keep you on the road to safety and savings.